Just like UFC 249’s location, the safety measures planned for fighters competing at the April 18 pay-per-view event remain a question mark.
UFC President Dana White would not say whether the promotion will have attendees tested for the novel coronavirus, declaring “the less the media knows, the better off it is.”
White assured Yahoo! Sports’ Kevin Iole that everyone involved with the event will receive the best health care possible.
”We will make sure we take care of everybody like we always do,” he said. “I’m not giving the public and the media all kinds of information on what I’m doing, but I’m not acting like some crazy rebel out here with the coronavirus. I’ve done everything I’ve been told to do.”
When pressed to divulge details, White bluntly said, “You don’t need to know. It’s none of your business.”
The UFC executive, who said he and his family are currently self-quarantined in their Las Vegas house, again defended the promotion’s safety record. He cited its willingness to postpone a trio of events amid increasingly strict recommendations issued by the federal government on gatherings of people. He also praised the efforts of the Nevada state government to contain the virus, which continues to spread at a rapid rate across the U.S.
But White also expressed exasperation at “panic” seen over the virus in public, and he fumed at critics who questioned the need to promote live events at a time when companies around the world are taking steps to reduce contact among workers.
White previously has said the promotion could screen event attendees by taking their temperature. But as several studies have shown, carriers of the virus don’t need to show symptoms to spread it widely in the community.
Testing would represent the strongest chance to know whether the people at UFC 249 – who will be limited to essential staff and fighters, per White – are at risk of spreading the virus to others, including vulnerable communities most at risk of developing serious complications. The availability of tests – and protocols for who gets them – has been a serious challenge for state governments.
White took a fatalistic view of the pandemic, indicated there is only so much he and others can do to fight against the virus.
”Whether you’re a coronavirus expert or not, it’s like hiding from cancer,” he said. “You can’t hide from this thing. You can’t hide. If you are a high-risk person, this thing’s going to get you. What’s going to happen next flu season? This thing’s going to disappear? No, it’s going to come back, just like the flu. And if it’s what’s going to get you, it’s gonna get you. So I’ve had a great run. If the coronavirus is what’s going to get me, let’s do it. Bring it. I’m ready corona – come get me.”
As MMA Fighting previously reported, coronavirus testing was not in place for the only UFC event promoted during the pandemic, a closed-door show in Brasilia, Brazil, though an official from the Brazilian Athletic Commission said regulators were taking every precaution possible.
White said the UFC is entertaining multiple locations for UFC 249, including two or three in the U.S. and three or four outside the country. An industry source told MMA Fighting that Florida is one of the destinations in the running, with the state’s commission using the same health and safety protocols for a Combat Night MMA event this past Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla.
On Monday night, White indicated the location was set in a separate interview with Iole. He then told ESPN.com the location was “99.9” percent confirmed.
As for the remainder of the UFC’s schedule, White said the promotion will soldier on. What the world looks like next year, when the world has lived with the virus for 12 months, he could only speculate.
”What I’m hoping is the United States, not just the state here, but the world is going to bounce back from this quickly,” he said. “That’s what I’m hoping, and life will get back to normal. And hopefully, the type of panic that’s going on right now never happens again in our lifetime.
”Listen, 2019 was an incredible year for us. But hopefully we snap back from this. But regardless of what this state, this country or the rest of the world does, the UFC is going to march on, whether there’s fans in it, not there, or whatever. Me and my team will fight through this. We will hold our schedule this year. Every fighter, everybody that works for me will make money, get paid, and life will be as normal as possible.”